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President Obama Restoring Endangered Species Act

In the final weeks of 2008, the Bush administration altered a decades old practice under the Endangered Species Act by issuing new rules which allowed agencies to move ahead with projects and programs without seeking an independent review by either the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Environmentalists and scientists were rightfully horrified by this, as it left it up to government agencies to decide on their own whether new dams, logging or mining operations posed a threat to endangered species or their habitat. These government agencies had little to no interest in the environmental consequences of their actions.

President Obama will today issue a presidential memorandum that will direct departments to yet again consult with these two agencies on decisions that could affect endangered plants and animals “while the Interior and Commerce Departments review the Bush rulemaking.”

Kieran Suckling, who is executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, said the memorandum will have a huge impact. “Endangered species are breathing a deep sigh of relief today, the consultation process is the heart of the Endangered Species Act power. By reversing Bush’s attempt to deregulate the consultation process, Obama restored oversight and balance and has given endangered species a good fighting chance of survival.”

Obama has said many times that he will let science, as opposed to big business and government interest, drive his administration’s policies on the environment. The memo is the latest in a series of acts by the new and vastly improved White House to undo Bush’s almost criminal legacy on the environment.

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US Wind Power – The Good News, Then The Bad News

President Obama’s promise to find and utilize alternative energy sources to help America become free of its dependence on foreign oil is starting to see some results, particularly in the renewable energy source that wind power provides. Last year, the Unites States upped it’s wind-power capacity to 25 gigawatts (GW), which dethroned the previous leader, Germany, as the world leader in wind power, according to new data from the Global Wind Energy Council.

America added 8.4GW of installed power in 2008, more than any other country. The most polluted nation in the world, China, is trying to salvage itself and is also investing heavily in wind power, nearly doubling its capacity for the fourth year running. Global capacity grew by 29% last year, the highest annual increase for six years.

As a downside to this seemingly good news (because isn’t there always a downside) the economy and credit crisis occurring right now is hurting the growth of these new clean energy industries. Factories which were building machinery for these industries have announced big layoffs in recent weeks, and trade groups are projecting 30 to 50 percent declines this year in the installation of new equipment, barring more bail-out help from the government. Wind and solar companies have tried to convince Congress to adopt measures that could help the market, but even if a favorable stimulus bill passes, it’s unlikely that the industries in question will experience a swift recovery.

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Obama Allows States to Set Emissions Standards

California and a dozen other states have tried in the past to create legislation for more strict emission standards than those imposed by the federal government, but at a recent press conference Prsident Barack Obama said that “Washington stood in their way.” The president wants the Environmental Protection Agency to take another look at a decision denying California and the other states permission to set tougher tailpipe emission standards to combat a build up of greenhouse gases.

Obama also asked his administration to get started on new fuel-efficiency guidelines for the auto industry in time to cover 2011 model-year cars.

“For the sake of our security, our economy and our planet, we must have the courage and commitment to change,” Obama said at a White House press conference. “It will be the policy of my administration to reverse our dependence on foreign oil while building a new energy economy that will create millions of jobs.”

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Obama Starts to Undo Bush’s Eco-Unfriendly “Midnight Regulations”

The Obama White House has started to move quickly in an effort to freeze all the terrible pending regulations proposed by the former president’s administration, including president Bush’s attempts to roll back a whole lot of environmental legislation. Last-minute rules, known as midnight regulations, are common when one administration leaves office. The Bush administration was working on a nightmare gang of regulations during the transition.

Here’s a few examples of some of the more heinous ones: a rule exempting factory farms from reporting pollution emissions from animal waste; one that would have made it easier for factories and refineries to expand without applying for new federal pollution permits; another would have opened areas of Oregon to logging and yet another would have opened two million acres of public land in Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah for oil-shale drilling.

Another one of Bush’s last attempts to destroy everything in his wake was a law that enables federal representatives to approve projects without considering global warming, and without consulting biological health experts about the effect on endangered species. He also tried to removed federal protection for gray wolves in the Northern Rockies and Great Lakes. Oh yes, and another would have helped start the heavy commercialization of meat from genetically modified animals.

A fitting last memory of Bush’s presidency will be the public’s growing knowledge of all these back door dealings being desperately shimmied through the back door just before Bush himself was shimmied out the back door. Good riddance to one of the least popular, most environmentally destructive world leaders in all of human history. What a legacy.

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Historic Inauguration Leaves Historic Garbage In It’s Wake

It was a huge job for the Washington garbage trucks which at the end of the party were stuck hauling away 130 tons of garbage after the inauguration of President Obama. National Park Service workers picked up almost 100 tons on the Mall and near the White House.

Because most trash cans had been removed for security reasons and because of the immense crowd which had been packed together like so many sardines, the mountain of rubbish left behind was of monumentally historic proportions.

“More than any Fourth of July, more than any event we’ve seen,” said Park Service spokesperson William Lyons. City workers took on double and triple shifts to try and remove the mountains of trash, determined to get the garbage out of downtown before the morning rush hour. “People left so many of their personal effects. Blankets, sleeping bags,” Lyons said. “Then the places where the vendors were, some of them just left their tables behind.”

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Dr. Steven Chu -Secretary of Energy

Yay! Dr. Steven Chu, President-elect Obama’s recent choice as the next Secretary of Energy, is one of the best choices Obama has made so far in his cabinet picks. Dr. Chu has an undergrad degrees in math and physics, a PhD in physics from Berkeley, he served as a professor and department chair of physics at Stanford, as well as the director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He also won the Nobel Prize in 1997.

Dr. Chu also helped start the Helios Project, a DOE-funded research effort to develop solar energy and biological-based fuels. The project endorses a far-reaching strategy which involves carbon sequestration, cellulosic fuel, geothermal energy, and improving efficiency, to name a few of the initiatives.

The best thing about Steven Chu is that he’s not a politician. He’s a scientist and an environmentalist, and the best choice Obama could have made for this extremely important position.

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